The music video “Hello” by Adele was released in 2015 after a three-year break in the singer’s career. It became the most attention-grabbing and challenging musical work of that time providing the fans of Adele with a new view on their idol. The video clip has gathered more than one and a half billion views on YouTube, and such success proves that Adele’s song is more than just a love song. It addresses the listeners by means of figurative elements and symbols and reveals connotative meaning in every line of the verse. The song can be interpreted in many ways and applied in many situations, which makes it socially important. Adele’s song contributes to social conversation because it exposes such themes as adulthood and difference in social statuses, which are significant issues for many modern listeners.
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The video is made in a sepia style that emphasizes its connection to the past. Many people used to watch white-and-black movies when they were younger, and the aim of Adele’s music video is to create an effect of nostalgia for one’s youth. Viewers observe Adele entering an old house, taking off dusty clothes from the furniture, and beginning her song. The first scene connotes singer’s youth since she tries to reach her ex-boyfriend using an old telephone instead of a modern one. Thus, she returns in her memories to the old times when people could reach each other only by a stationary telephone and had to wait until the other person would pick up the phone. The beginning of the video is symbolical since it is associated with growing up, becoming older, and re-evaluating one’s past deeds from the perspective of an adult and experienced person.
The first lines of the song show that many years have passed after the woman and her ex-lover broke up: “Hello, it’s me, / I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet” (Adele). On the one hand, the singer wants to “find closure and to discuss with an ex-lover how things went wrong” (Stumme). Thus, she tries to heal her soul and eventually end their relationships. On the other hand, she sings about social gap between them has not been allowing them to meet all those years. She has become popular and loved by many people, and the man probably has different fate. One may assume that he is either a common man who does not want to live with a famous pop singer or a popular person who has achieved success in some other sphere of life and has his personal way that pushes both lovers apart. Nevertheless, the changes are evident, and their break up cannot leave Adele alone.
Next line “to go over everything” adds a new meaning to the beginning of the song (Adele). The singer feels as if she has to finish their relationships and find answers to all her questions. It is obvious that she is hurt and needs to understand the actions of both of them to bare her soul and become free from that burden. In spite of all those years “supposed to heal,” Adele is not healed. Unfortunately, the man does not seem to care since he never answers. This small passage shows the viewers that people often do not think about their behavior and its consequences when they are young; but when they become older, they come to the realization of previous mistakes. While listening to this song, modern audience has a chance to reconsider their actions and think of aftereffects.
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The second part of the first verse connotes the singer’s maturity and popularity: “we were younger and free / I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet” (Adele). First, she is a young dreamer who has particular vision of future and then, she becomes an adult woman whose life does not go as planned (Malach). Her nostalgia is so strong that she always thinks about her youth and freedom. At the same time, the words “the world fell at our feet” mean that she has become famous and gained world-wide popularity (Adele). Interestingly, the word “our” shows that they are together when Adele becomes famous. Probably, they have planned to spend their lives together, but these plans ruin when they become older and not free. Along with gaining popularity, Adele gets new obligations to herself and her audience, and she has little time for her boyfriend. Thus, now, she misses being young and free as well as time they have spent together, which does not let her move further.
The second verse shows the audience that the man has not become as popular as Adele. She asks him, “Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?” (Adele). It becomes clear that Adele’s fame affects him negatively, and he stays in the town where they used to spend time together. The following line affirms this idea: “It’s so typical of me to talk about myself” (Adele). The song, thus, reminds the listeners that all people tend to talk about themselves when they are happy or succeed in something. For example, if a person gets a promotion, meets beloved one, wins the lottery, or has dreams come true, he/she usually forgets about others and speaks only about personal achievements. Probably, Adele wants to say that she is sorry that she has talked too much about her success and fame and has forgot about her lover’s feelings. Therefore, it becomes clear why she wants to end these relationships – she has hurt the man and wants to apologize now.
The next lines prove that difference in social statuses is the reason for their break up: “such a difference / between us / and a million miles” (Adele). One can interpret these words both figuratively and directly. On the one hand, Adele and her ex-boyfriend live in different states, and million miles separate them. On the other hand, there is an emotional gap between them, and they do not share any interests and plans. Maybe, Adele wants to move further and become successful while the man wants to leave everything as it is, staying in a small town. In the video, one can see that first, he is happy and joyful but suddenly, something happens: they begin to quarrel, and break up. This moment becomes crucial in lives of both Adele and her boyfriend. They stop talking due to her absence and success, and it leads to emotional distance between them. Adele realizes this distance when she tries to reach the man by the phone, but he never picks up.
Furthermore, chorus of the song emphasizes the difference between the singer and her ex-lover and their adulthood. The words “other side” and “outside” have a special meaning in chorus. “Other side” connotes their different social statuses – Adele is famous, while the man is not. Besides, they live in different countries – she is in the USA, and he is probably in Great Britain because Adele is a British singer. Maybe, time difference does not allow Adele to reach him by the phone, or he does not want to pick up, and she cannot influence him because of the distance. Despite this fact, she continues singing “from the other side” again and again, wishing to apologize for everything she has done.
“Outside” means that Adele is no longer with the man, i.e., she is not in his circle, and they both live their personal lives. However, the singer wants to reach him “inside,” but he does not respond, and she concludes that he does not care: “But it doesn’t matter, it clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore” (Adele). Again, it proves that Adele is the reason for their break up because she feels guilty, while the man does not feel any guilt, only anger. That is why, it is so important for her to say “sorry” and hear that he forgives her. In such a way, she will be able to begin a new life without any burden on her shoulders. However, it does not happen.
One of the key elements of the video is the old telephone. Its figurative meaning is a bad connection such telephones provide. Since Adele returns to her past, she cannot reach her ex-lover using the phone. Moreover, she cannot send him a message via Facebook or Twitter because old phones have no access to the Internet, which is another sign of the past. Today, people often solve their problems on the Internet, sending messages or deleting their accounts on the social networking websites. However, in the past, they had to end their relationships face-to-face, which was more difficult; thus, many questions were unsolved. The director of the music video, Xavier Dolan, comments, “I can’t get my head around filming iPhones—they’re too real, too identifiable with our everyday lives. […]. I find them to be non-narrative elements” (Stumme). Modern smartphones would not allow viewers to better penetrate the meaning of the clip; thus, the old phones are symbols of the past, denoting Adele’s youth.
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The music video “Hello” contributes to the fan’s culture because it helps reveal their beliefs and identities. When people are young, they do not think about some obligations and responsibilities and just do what they want. Thus, their identities begin to develop later, when they become older. Thoughts of young people are also free and happy as they often think of carefree existence and do not want to solve any difficulties they meet in life. However, while growing up, people begin to look at their past mistakes and actions from a different perspective. They often reevaluate their behavior and return to their memories to comprehend what they have done wrong. Adele tries to apologize for her selfishness to her ex-lover. She has not shared his interests when they have been together because she has been too concerned about her fame. At the same time, she does not understand that she acts selfishly because her aim is to work hard to make both of them happy. Today, she realizes that not only success and money make people happy but also attention and understanding. Unfortunately, it is too late to change something.
It should be noted that the music video attracts the audience because it appeals to their emotions. Almost every person has some crucial moments in their lives, and such moments can change the lives completely. Adele shows that even after a long time, it is essential to look back and finish all unfinished deeds or solve all unsolved issues. Thus, the purpose of the song is to both teach the youth to think of their actions today in order not to regret in the future and to demonstrate the singer’s maturity. The song invokes such emotions as sympathy, pity, and excitement. The listeners feel sorry for the singer and her inability to reach the man, empathizing with her pain. At the same time, they are excited about her return to the stage. The video makes it clear why Adele has been absent for so many years. In her personal interview, she tells that she has given birth to a son, which is the main reason for her absence (Ledbetter). This event is the crucial point in her career and personal life because she has become an adult person, a mother to her son, and an experienced woman. The song is an expression of her past feelings, reevaluation of her deeds, and acceptance of her adult life.
To sum up, the music video “Hello” is important for fan culture because it explores the themes of maturity and difference in social status, which are relevant today. When two people of different social statuses meet, they may quarrel eventually due to a gap in their emotions and feelings. Young people often do not understand it, but when they become older, they reevaluate this distance and realize the reasons for their conflicts. Since the tone of the song is melancholic and appealing to the past, it evokes empathy and nostalgia, connecting viewers with the singer and refreshing their personal memories. Those people who struggle with adulthood may use this song as an example of growing up and reevaluating one’s actions. In the clip, Adele reconsiders her previous mistakes and says goodbye to her youth and freedom. The song is a step into her new life – the life of a young mother and singer who returns to audience after a long break and presents new songs.